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Should Google notify customers when an extension or app changes hands?



Last week, Google externally disabled a fairly popular Chrome extension, which was found to contain malicious software. The management up to that point was complicated, but the final reason can be linked to the change of ownership in June 2020. There is a common waiver on this point: Developers withdraw money (as they are allowed to do), but the new rogue owners are just interested in a quick money. Sometimes these acquisitions come with a tweet or a blog post; in the best cases, the app or extension will even tell you directly that it is under new ownership. But you can not always trust it. So, should customers be notified when an extension or app changes hands?

There are right ways and wrong ways to handle a procurement. A good example was when Tasker switched back in 201

8. Current owner / developer João Dias was ideal choice to take over, as he had already been contributing to related plugins for years. The news of the change was spread far and wide, and basically everyone who used the app was aware of it. I would bet that you will not find a single customer who is dissatisfied with how he has handled the development since.

With regard to several business acquisitions, the switching of SMS Backup & Restore from Carbonite to SyncTech was also handled well. The new owners did not try to hide what happened. If I remember correctly, the app itself had an interstitial screen that reported the news, similar to the first update’s change log after the sale. And when the new owners took action to make money through ads, they made sure to keep an opt-out option so as not to alienate users from many years.

In both cases, new owners remained communicative and responsible, and their related apps are still loved by customers. But not all procurements are equal consumers. Cheetah Mobile, for example, has a long history of buying apps and then destroying them. Their actions are so hostile to users (and outright fake) that Google took the exceptional step of banning every app they create from the Play Store. In the world of Chrome extensions, some companies are even buying older extensions with an active user base to load them with malicious software.

While these acquisitions may be good or bad, as far as we can tell, there are actually no rules that require developers to inform customers that the app is about to change hands. There is a wide range of results when it happens, but customers often only find out about it when it is too late and things have gone downhill. Google has many developer guidelines that cover things from subscription billing to cryptocurrency mining in the Play Store, but we can not find a single mention of customers being notified of an acquisition – the closest the company comes is that the ownership itself can not be represented or hidden. . Google’s Chrome Web Store policies are similar and prohibit imitation and deception, but without the requirement to notify customers directly if your extension is under new ownership.

Chrome extensions are disabled if permissions change, but it does not help if it already collects all your data, and customers are almost trained to just re-enable these apps without much scrutiny.

Chrome extensions and apps are being bought and sold all the time, often for the worse. Should customers be notified when this happens? Feel free to select everyone who applies and call in with specifications or qualifications for that opinion in the comments.

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